Beginning at verse (1) we read thus, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Immediately we see the context of the chapter. There are quarrels, struggles, conflicts, going on within us. Any honest Christian would agree that this is so. We know from (Ga 5:17) this stated truth; “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
An examination of Romans seven gives us the same picture. Paul, speaking of the war that is ongoing in his own soul, states this uncomfortable fact, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (Ro 7:19” Now Paul, an Apostle, is warring against the flesh; struggling against sin in his own life. This man was called by Jesus Christ Himself: Paul heard the audible voice of our Risen Lord and saw the Heavenly light of the Glory of God. And yet he struggled with sin!
This should bring us comfort in one respect; men are men, and even those closest with our Lord, even those who walked with Him and heard His voice still struggled with sin. They were not perfect. And neither are we! Indeed, we area all on level ground in the eyes of God. Only our Heavenly Father is perfect and without sin! This doesn’t mean we should grow complacent and say, “I’m going to sin anyway so lets give it a whirl!”
Paul said in (Philippians 4:13-14) “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It is only when we get to Heaven, only when we enter into our eternal rest will we cease struggling with our old nature! Here is the nature of eternal rest, it is rest from sin, rest from the battle against ourselves. But until that blessed day we are in a conflict with sin, self and Satan. And each of these opponents are playing for keeps. They are just as determined to destroy us as the Muslims are! Consider the word James used. He spoke of quarrels and conflicts.
Quarrel comes from the Greek word Polemos which literally means to bustle, war, battle, fight. And so within our souls there is a…
A fight, a battle.
A dispute or strife.
Then we come to the word conflict. The Greek word is Mache. The definition of this word is very similar to Polemos carrying with it the idea of -fighting or striving. And so we see ourselves caught up in deadly combat with these enemies of our souls. Our flesh as it were has taken up arms, to do battle against the Spirit of God, the earnest of our inheritance.
We know that the Holy Comforter indwells us for the purpose of leading us in paths of righteousness for His Names sake. It is He who teaches us the truth about God’s word, Who brings to our remembrance all that Jesus said and prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. And our sinful nature is at odds with the Holy Spirit. Our old nature hates the holy commandments of God: it hates God and all He stands for. Like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, our old man roars against this Holy God saying, “From Hells heart I stab at Thee, for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at Thee.” It is a grievous, vicious enemy that we face. We have met the enemy and they is us! Our own worst enemy is ourselves.
We once wallowed in the pig sty: that vile mire of sin into which we were born until God came. On that day as is so eloquently stated in (Ps 113:7) “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; He made us new creatures in Christ Jesus, washed us with His precious blood and clothed us in the pure white robes of His righteousness. He rescued us out of the camp of the enemy. He purchased us from the slave market of sin and made us heir of the kingdom of God.
But He didn’t remove the old nature. He left it there for His purposes. And this internal enemy is active, stirring up those old vices which we had honed to a fine edge during our stay in the world. He says, “Is not the source (of conflict and quarrels) your pleasures that wage war in your members? And what exactly dwells in our members? What is it that we practiced before we were born again? It is sin! And Paul states the case in (Romans 1:29-32) describing what we were before God had mercy; we were sinful, unrepentant men and women who were continually “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Now we have been born again. We have been recreated in Christ Jesus unto good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. But though we were redeemed from our sinful flesh, though we were given a new heart and a new Spirit; yet the old man remains like a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet us. And its purpose should be to keep us from exalting ourselves, from becoming puffed up, from thinking too highly of ourselves. But too often we ignore the cries of the Holy Spirit who calls us into paths of righteousness for His Names sake and we yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin!
James describes the battle; 2 “You lust” you strongly desire with such an evil heart that you will go to any length to get what you want. Think of David here. David lusted after Bathsheba. He coveted her! She was another man’s wife but David had to have her. He came up with a plan which involved throwing his kingly weight around. He would call for her and surely no one could refuse a summons from the king. So he sent one of his men down to bring her to him. No sooner had she arrived but he then took her and committed the act that he had already perpetrated in his heart. And yet she was another man’s wife. Now follow the process. David lusted after this woman even though he had many other wives. But of Bathsheba he could say with James, I lust and (I) do not have; she’s not mine!
He came up with a plan, “I must make her mine.” And so he took her and committed adultery. Then she became pregnant. When he heard the news he schemed again saying, “This looks like a job for Cover-up Man!” He sent for her husband Uriah and tried to get him to sleep with his wife to ‘cover it up. Unfortunately for David, Uriah who is listed as one of David’s mighty men, was too loyal a soldier to his king. This loyalty carried no weight with David for he was a man on a mission. He must conceal his sin. Undaunted after failing to cover up his sin in one fashion, David thought in his heart, “I’ve got it. I’ll kill him and the girl will be mine. I’ll look magnanimous as I sweep in and show mercy to the poor widow.” Did he think, “To the victor goes the spoil?” The end result tells a different tale.
The outcome of all of this was that Uriah was murdered, the adulterously conceived baby died, and the sword would never leave David’s house. (Amnon raped Tamar, was murdered by Absalom who in turn rebelled against his father, shamed his concubines in public and died in battle against his father. What a horrible picture of the flesh in all of its non-glory. It is a true statement that, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But (only) he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. (Pr 28:13)
James continues saying you lust and don’t have “so you commit murder.” Now this can be either actual physical murder as in the case we have just examined, or it can be the murder of another’s character! You see, like David we go through these motions. We come up with a plan and sometimes we carry it out while other times we just dream. But Jesus spoke of even our thoughts as having results. If you look upon a woman to lust after her you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. You are as guilty before God as if you had committed the act itself. If you hate your brother you have murdered him in your heart! Do you see the evil in this! ‘
Instead of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, instead of trusting in our heavenly Father for all of our needs, we look to the world. We are like Joshua and the elders of Israel who neglected to look to the Lord when confronted by the Kenites. The Israelites were warned not to make any alliances with the nations of Canaan but instead of looking to the Lord, they believed their eyes when they saw the worn out clothes and the moldy bread!
We too neglect to look to the Lord. We make alliances with the world. We act like the world. We return to the world’s vomit as it were. We yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin. Listen to how James describes this process. You have turned away from the Lord and have begun the downward spiral into sin. You are envious (of another’s goods) and (you) cannot obtain; you can’t get what you want so you fight and quarrel.
I am reminded of Ahab and Naboth. Naboth had a vineyard, a parcel of land which was part of his familial inheritance. The Israelites were told not to give away or sell off their inheritance. We see this decree in (Lev 25:25-29) ‘If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. 26 ‘Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, 27 then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. 28 ‘But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.
This was the decree of Almighty God. But Ahab cared nothing for God and His Laws being a worshiper of Baal, and Ashtoreth. He saw Naboth’s vineyard, and coveted it. He asked Naboth if he could by it or trade for it But, being a faithful man, one who actually believed God and obeyed His law, (1Ki 21:3) Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” Ahab whined like a little baby and went home to pout. But his evil wife Jezebel comforted him saying that she would take care of the whole thing. Probably patted his head and said, “Don’t you worry about a thing.” How did she take care of it? She murdered Naboth and proudly presented Ahab with his new vineyard. And the result was death for Ahab and Jezebel for their sin. The wages of sin is death! The spoils of sin are empty vessels with no value at all!
And it is all so pointless. We are called to trust in God, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, with the promise that “all these things” the things He knows we have need of “will be added to us.” In (Ps 2:8) He tells us, ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
But even with these truths so clearly stated James says, “You do not have because you do not ask. And then to add insult to injury he says, not only don’t you bring your requests before God, when you do break down and pray 3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You’re looking to God to gratify your evil desires. You have to gall to bow before the Holy God of the Universe Who is of purer eyes than to behold evil and you ask Him to fulfill your sinful desires. What blasphemy is this. And we are in ‘good’ company. The children of Israel bowed before God and Baal. They prayed to Jehovah and Ashtoreth. They worshiped Yahweh and Moloch. Paul spoke of such people who were trying to have their cake and eat it too when he said in (1Co 10:21) “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
In 2Co 6:14-16) he warned believers saying, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” And James tells it like it is. He says that we are committing spiritual adultery when we do this. In verse 4 he says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? And we must take care here! Paul tells us, not in vain, to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith and John warns us that if we are practicing sin, if our lives are characterized by sin, then we are still lost. We are without hope, being without God, in this sinful world. We are still under the yoke of the prince of the power of the air.
And though we may be able to fool men, James tells us that we are merely deluding ourselves if we think we can get away with this before the eyes of the Lord which are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. In fact he lays it out just as plain as can be when he says, Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world whoever thinks he can call himself or herself a Christian and practice sin, be a friend of the world, the flesh and the devil and get away with it, this person is in very serious trouble for in doing so he makes himself an enemy of God. I can’t think of a worse thing to be than the enemy of God. The scriptures don’t speak in vain when they say that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
There is only one end to the life of an unrepentant sinner, no matter how ‘religious’ he may be. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit from the Greek word Pnuema which means breath or wind…which He has made to dwell in us”? There are two schools of thought concerning this passage. One school of thought thinks that this speaks of our human spirit, the spirit that God has placed within us; that which makes up the real us. Then there is the school which takes this as being the Holy Spirit which God sent to indwell all of His children. Which one is it? The translators of my NAS have capitalized Spirit which leads us to think of the Holy Spirit. My KJV leaves it small which leads us to thing of the human spirit.
I am led to believe that it is the Holy Spirit. In (1Cor 6:19) we read thus “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” The Holy Spirit lives within us and He watches over us, leading us into all truth, warning us of error and counseling us to flee evil. He desires we should not commit adultery with the world, but be wholly devoted to God, as those espoused to God in Christ. He is jealous of the world which constantly vies for our love and attention.
This is a point of self examination. What is it that leads us? Are we led by the Spirit of God? The Bible says, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Ro 8:14) And God The Holy Spirit jealously watches over us, yearning for our conformity to the image of Jesus. Are we led by the flesh? Then we make ourselves His enemies, we commit spiritual adultery, and the Spirit of God is not in us.
(1John 1:5-9) This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.